Anywhere among the mountains, badlands, and prairies in Montana, you can enjoy spectacular views and embark on amazing adventures. Play a tune on some rocks; walk among 1,000 Buddhas; find dinosaur fossils; soak in a natural hot spring; or venture underground to see how one historic town conducted business back in 1904. Book a stay at one of numerous Montana vacation rentals for an unforgettable getaway. Check out the 10 best hidden gems in Montana, many of which are situated just beyond Yellowstone, adjacent to Glacier National Park, and among amber waves of grain.
1. Yaak Valley
The northwest corner of Montana hides an unexpected secret rain forest where wildlife and coniferous trees flourish. As one of the most biologically diverse landscapes in the state, Yaak Valley is home to moose, falcons, mountain goats, and many other species along the Yaak River. High precipitation and low elevation create the climate that supports lush forests of alpine fir, spruce, cedar, and hemlock. Your Yaak vacation rental gives you easy access to year-round adventures, including hiking, biking, and fishing. When you visit in the summer, put away the cell phones–there is no signal anyway–and go pick some berries.
2. The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas, Arlee
Whoa down and find your zen in Montana’s one-and-only Garden of One Thousand Buddhas. Rows of Buddha statues fan out from the large, ornate statue in the center. Many of the smaller Buddhas include dedication plaques to recognize benefactors. Fountains, ponds, and flowers among the statuary add to the tranquility and beauty of the garden. Walk the garden clockwise and respectfully.
3. The Boiling River
Boiling River flows into the Gardner River just two miles from Yellowstone National Park’s North gate — a fact that many park visitors never realize. The hot water and the cool water flow together, meeting in small, stone pools that create natural hot tubs for soaking. The water from Boiling River flowing from Mammoth Hot Springs is very hot, and visitors must exercise caution before hopping in. This is public land, and free to use as long as you follow the posted rules. The soaking pools close only in the spring during the flooding season.
4. The Ringing Rocks, East of Butte
Pack some hammers for your vacation in Montana to stage your own rock concert. The Ringing Rocks near Butte ring melodically when tapped gently with a hammer. This pile of rocks exists as part of the edge of the Boulder Batholith, a geological formation which reaches from Helena to Dillon, covering roughly 1,900 square miles. The rocks’ composition and connection patterns create the condition that causes the rocks to ring when struck. Scientists say that once removed from the formation, the rocks no longer ring.
5. Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Lovell
For knock-your-socks-off scenery, Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area makes the grade for beauty, geology, and history of inhabitants. Over 120,000 acres and more than 10,000 years of human history earn this area the nickname of Montana’s Grand Canyon. Whether you stand on a 1,500-foot cliff overlooking the river or quietly watching wild horses graze on a hillside, there’s beauty everywhere you look. Among many incredible recreational opportunities, the area includes river floats, boat rentals on the canyon lake, fly fishing, kayaking, and hiking.
6. Havre Beneath the Streets, Havre
Check out something a little on the shady side when you do the Havre Beneath the Streets underground tour. When a fire almost decimated the town in 1904, adaptable business owners moved underground. Some set up shop in their basements, and together, they created a series of tunnels that encompass a six-block radius. They carried on business as usual during the rebuilding of the town above-ground. Recreated businesses include a barber shop, a general store, a saloon, a bordello, and others.
7. Gibson Dam, Augusta
Take a step off the beaten path — more like 23 miles from the nearest town — to visit Gibson Dam on the Sun River, 70 miles west of Great Falls. Located along the Rocky Mountain Front where the mountains meet the plains, the area gives you breathtaking views in all directions from the dam and from Gibson Reservoir. Head out to this hidden gem for horse back riding, boating, canoeing, fishing, or hiking.
8. Makoshika State Park, Glendive
Walk where dinosaurs lumbered along millions of years ago, and see their fossil remains along the way in Makoshika State Park in Southeast Montana’s badlands. To see the hoodoos, geological layers, and sage brush, drive the scenic park roads. The state park service encourages visitors to hike the dinosaur trails looking for fossil remains of Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops, but does not allow anyone to dig or remove artifacts. Stop by the visitor center to let the kids see the interpretive exhibits and get directions to the hiking trails, archery site, scenic drives, and other amenities.
9. Daniels County Museum & Pioneer Town, Scobey
The entire town is a museum sprawled across 20 acres. The townspeople of Scobey restored 35 historic buildings to create Daniels County Museum & Pioneer Town, an interactive and educational adventure. The town serves to collect, preserve, and display local artifacts from the early 1900s. Each nook and cranny unfolds another page of history as you look at the furniture, utensils, toys, clothing, and school memorabilia of long ago. Before returning to your Scobey vacation rental, stop by the Dead Horse Saloon for some pizza. Summer is the best time to visit as there are more activities, but the pioneer town museum is open year-round.
People likely keep the world and its knowledge in their pockets in the form of gadgets–smartphones, iPads, and so on. To get away from it all, visit a town of fewer than 100 people, just outside Glacier National Park, that’s completely off the grid. All of their power comes from generators and solar panels. Just 20 miles from Canada, Polebridge includes the Polebridge Mercantile, a cafe, saloon, hostel, and a few houses. Without cell service or WiFi, the world exists beyond your pocket, out there, in nature; waiting for you to discover it.
Ready to go? Check out these amazing Montana vacation rentals on Tripping.com.